Balabhadra Dasa, co-managing director of ISCOWP (International Society for Cow Protection) along with his wife Chayadevi, is currently in a stable condition at home after suffering an unexpected heart-attack.
Now 62, Balabhadra has worked in cow protection and on farms since joining ISKCON in 1969, and has done hard physical labor his whole life. For the past forty years, he has had various back problems, but managed to soldier on, milking ISCOWP's cows and training its oxen on the organization's 165-acre base in West Virginia, USA.
In 2008, however, things began to change. Balabhadra collapsed due to back pain four times, taking two weeks or more to recover each time.
Doctors told him he had herniated disks and moderate spinal stenosis, and that the pain he was experiencing in his left knee contributed to his back problems. But they said he didn't need surgery; some medication and physical therapy would be enough.
In late November 2008, Balabhadra felt a burning, tingling sensation in his right leg. His physical therapist, who was with him at the time, advised him to simply "work through it."
The following day the pain was so severe that he couldn't walk. "You've just sprained your knee," emergency room staff told him. "The pain should decrease in a few days." It took Balabhadra the next five weeks to convince the state clinic that it was not a sprain, and that the pain was severe and unabated. Finally, they prescribed more medication, but said there was nothing further they could do.
Balabhadra turned to acupuncture, and within two visits found that he could finally lie in bed without constant pain. During his second visit on December 30, the acupuncturist said he could relieve the pain further with more treatment. At last, it seemed Balabhadra was on the path to recovery.
The next night, when he went to the bathroom, his wife Chayadevi heard a loud noise. She rushed to the bathroom and found him lying on the floor, his forehead bloody. "He had fallen and hit his head on the ceramic tiles," Chayadevi recalls. "He was conscious, so I tried to help him back to the bedroom. But halfway there he started slipping to the floor. He moaned, his neck arched and his eyes rolled back into his head."
Chayadevi had cared for many dying cows, and she knew what it looked like when the soul was about to leave the body. Slapping his face and calling his name, she managed to bring Balabhadra back to consciousness and called 911. Then she gave him Rescue Remedy, put on a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing and sat by his side. When he began to loose consciousness again, she kept him awake by talking to him.
The ambulance eventually arrived and brought them to the hospital, where Balabhadra stayed the night.
The next morning, blood tests indicated he had had a heart attack.
It was only a mild one, and his heart was not damaged. But it had not stabilized yet, and the worst could still happen. Even if it didn't, doctors told them, people who had this type of heart attack often experienced a more severe one within six months. What's more, his blood test had also revealed a possible liver problem.
His life was in Krishna's hands.
And Krishna wanted him to live. The following morning, Balabhadra's heart had stabilized. Doctors told him that heart surgery would not be necessary, and gave him medicine to take for his heart and high blood pressure. The test results on his liver, they told him, had also come back clear.
Balabhadra is still waiting to see a neurologist about the pain in his left leg, but he is receiving acupuncture treatment, which gives him much relief. Things are looking up.
Balabhadra may never return to the same level of physical work he has been used to for so many years. But he has much to teach others about Srila Prabhupada's mission of self-sufficiency and cow protection.
"Our hearts have been touched with the kindness of the worldwide devotee community and their many letters, prayers, and phone calls have been a great source of comfort for Balabhadra," Chayadevi says. "We hope that they will continue to pray for his improved general health and for his leg situation to be resolved soon so that he may be able to once again walk amongst his beloved cows."
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